Jarenth Plays XCOM: Enemy Unknown — Episode 14: Informed Ability

In the last episode of Jarenth Plays XCOM, the specter of Obi-Josh Kenobi appeared before me with words of wisdom and aid, gently guiding me away from that rocky cliff of ignominious failure and into the possible limelight of alien base assaulting. I guess he was my only hope? Now, through careful application of Engineering prowess, stolen weapons and crafted armor, and our quite excellent medbay, Team Alpha Squad is ready to assault the aliens’ sub-oceanic stronghold.

It could, very well, be now or never.

Six ropes descend on an alien architecture. Tovik, Loween, Krellen, Smash, Jones, DeHaan. There’s no convenient Skyranger to run back to, here: it’s literally do or die. The team touches down, the HUD snaps into view, and the alien base assault is underway.

I didn’t take any screenshots of this.

I’m incredibly sorry, but it’s true. Some of you may know that I use Fraps’ auto-screenshot mode to make screenshots for these Let’s Plays, and… something went wrong. In between the three other episodes I shot on the same day and talking to Spectral Josh about How To Not Suck 101, I must’ve accidentally toggled the screenshot mode once too often. I zigged where I should have zagged, basically, and because of that my ever-present shutter camera was off the entire time. And because this is an Iron Man game, I can’t just go back.

For those of you who were counting on me to regale you with images of what the alien base looks like, I’m sorry. I can tell you that it’s large, composed of multi-level platforms, suspended in darkness over… what looks like to be massive pulsing organs. Here, I did find one image from someone else’s Let’s Play. This is what the whole place looks like, more or less.

Now, when I discovered I was flat out of screenshots, I did have enough presence of mind to write down the battle highlights. It’ll be dry reading without visual accompaniment, but I suppose it’s better than nothing:

Team Alpha squad enter the compound on ropes from the ceiling. The very first room is completely empty, save for some creepy alien surgical equipment. It appears the abduction victims are brought here, for… we don’t actually know what for. Yet. I assume that Shen and Vahlen would love to get their hands on this stuff, so I resist the urge to blow it up.

The base is initially staffed by Chryssalids. No, I don’t know why the aliens would keep their murderous Zerg-locust pets just around like that. The Chryssalids are still dangerous up close, but the team’s enhanced armor and weapons — DeHaan and Tovik carry a Heavy Laser Gun and a Laser Sniper rifle, respectively, while everyone else is packing Light Plasma Rifles — means they are much less of a threat. The base is comprised of narrow walkways, too, which means they have no room to swarm. Most of the aliens don’t even make it to melee range.

This does not, of course, put any breaks on my own stupidity. Fairly early on, I send Krellen straight through an alien door. This puts him in a room with three Chryssalids, who immediately wake up and swarm him. Krellen can’t leave (as he was Run-and-Gunning in) and I’m not entirely sure my regular firepower and accuracy are enough to take out all the Chryssalids before they get a turn. And if they do… Krellen is tough, but those scythe arms are lethal. So I do the only thing I can think of:

I order DeHaan to fire his rocket straight into the pack. Of three Chryssalids and one Krellen.

(Future Jarenth’s note: *Damn*, I wish I had a screenshot of this.)

Three near-death Chryssalids are a much less risky proposition than three full-health ones, and Smash and Jones carry a combined total of six medkits anyway. It was a good tactical decision, and I’m glad I made it, though I suspect both Krellen and DeHaan will need some counseling after this is over.

Later on, I run into more enemies: Thin Men, Floaters, and a few little flying robot claws called Drones. The Drones aren’t particularly dangerous, with only three health and a weak beam attack. I can’t capture them, though. The Thin Men are a little more annoying because of their poison nonsense, and because I’m going easy on them: remember that I haven’t actually captured a Thin Man yet.

This ‘kindness’ nearly costs me as I miss-click and accidentally put Smash completely out of cover. The resident aliens take me up on this shooting gallery offer, and Smash suffers his fair share of plasma burns. He survives — barely! — on 1 HP.

Luckily, I do manage to capture that Thin Man I wanted for my collection, courtesy of DeHaan’s never-failing accuracy. As for the other Thin Men, Loween is carrying something just for such an occasion: an Alien Grenade, pilfered from the Muton I captured earlier. It explodes in a spray of green light, dealing five damage (over a regular grenade’s three). It’s glorious.

Trekking through the alien base like this takes about ten minutes. We find a lot of interesting tech. More of the surgical tables, pillars streaming with incandescent light, something resembling something resembling food, and a holographic system seemingly designed for entertainment. Quote dr. Shen:

Is that what the aliens do for fun? At least they’re not playing… computer games.

Finally, in what can only be the last room, we run into a Sectoid. Not just any Sectoid, though: this one packs an impressive eight health, and it looks different from most other Sectoids I’ve seen. It’s brain seems larger, somehow. It reminds me of the super-charged Sectoids we met way back in the introduction.

This creepy-looking fellow.

As if to reinforce this theme, the first thing this Sectoid Commander — thanks, unit view! — does is mind-control Smash. It’s apparently an exhausting experience, and Smash can’t act on the alien’s orders this turn, but this could turn real nasty in the next…

…unless I have Krellen and Loween crouch up to cover, side-by-side, and take out the Sectoid Commander in twin plasma fire.

And that’s it. The alien command hierarchy has received a significant kick in the proverbial nuts, and everyone’s coming home alive. I even bring a Thin Man, for safe-keeping, and a lot of alien tech. Significantly, the Sectoid Commander was guarding one particular piece of equipment that dr. Vahlen is adamant we bring home in one piece.

The Situation Room is a-flutter with excited cheers and congratulations, as Steve shakes hands and gives out high-fives. Everyone seems convinced we’ve won this war… everyone but dr. Vahlen. In a brief conversation with Steve, she points out that while this was a magnificent victory, there could very well be more alien forces out there. Steve accuses her of being a humbug.

How magnificent is this victory, you ask?

Panic *around the world* is down by two points. In literally every country that’s a part of the Council.

Two injuries, four people completely unharmed.

Turns out DeHaan didn’t need that counseling after all.

Both me and my in-character Commander agree with dr. Vahlen, of course; the game would be over otherwise. That’s why I find myself down in Research now, listening to dr. Vahlen’s preliminary report on the curious alien device. She calls it a Hyperwave Communications Beacon, and theorizes that the Sectoid Commander was using it as a dedicated command-communication channel.

Which begs the question: if this communication array was only to be used by the Sectoid Commander… who was it communicating with?

That stiffness you just felt was the plot, thickening.

Most of the other technology we’ve recovered from the alien base is useless. No, literally: it has no research or construction purposes, and can be sold on the Gray Market without repercussion. Well, with as little repercussion as you’re expect selling actual alien technology to third parties would have.

Seriously, it’s *literally* Soylent Green! Who would *buy* this?

And, of course, not one day after the team returns successfully…

“Good job on not failing terribly, Commander!”

Whew, was that ever the break I needed.

With the money I receive from the Council and the technology sales, I put a few plans in motion. First, wary of re-rising Panic levels, I construct a Satellite Uplink. I already had one Satellite in the works, so I build another one. I also construct a second Workshop, adjacent to the first: I don’t ever want to run out of Engineers again, and their adjacency effects should help with my dwindling Alloy supplies.

I’m also excavating more, in spite of having plenty open space, because I have no sense of the value of money.

In the Foundry, I discover that I can use the Drone wrecks I recovered from the base to improve the Arc Thrower’s success rate. Well, that’s a no-brainer.

Let it be noted that DeHaan never even *needed* this upgrade to be super cool, though.

And finally, in Research… I do nothing. I was researching a new armor type called Skeleton Suit earlier, and that has only three days left. I understand we need to keep the pressure on, trace where the aliens were coming from and just how much we’ve hampered their ability to kill us all, but we’ll also need better gear to do this.

And that’s it. Again, I apologize for the rather text-heavy nature of today’s episode. But even without the camera’s ever-present eye, I’ve managed to turn a losing proposition into an uneasy stalemate. And now that I have a better handle on Panic mechanics, an enhanced future stream of income and a decent team of high-level soldiers, I’m starting to get the feeling I might just be able to turn this thing around completely.

Here’s my current plan of action. Please feel free to nitpick and point out flaws as much as you wish.

Next episode: Hey, remember how I built a robot earlier? Me neither! Let’s take it out for a test drive.


  1. The reason DeHaan did not need counseling is that Rocket Attack was him taking out his aggression on Krellen for Krellen’s attempt to capture aliens earlier in this LP.

    I’m sure Krellen will later respond with something horrible.

    Congratulations on not failing terribly. And further congratulations on building more satellites and making our near-earth space even more overly filled. Soon the spaceships will not have a navigable way to enter our planet’s atmosphe—-Ooohhhhh. Sneaky plan.

    1. Four days in the infirmary is way better than giving birth to a horrible alien rape-child, so we’re cool.

      Also, four days in the infirmary for taking a rocket to the face either says impressive things about my physical stamina, or the quality of our medical staff.

      1. Of all the screenshots I missed in this Let’s Play, this is the one I regret the most.

        I’m not entirely sure how the medbay works either. I think the actual damage you took was just one or two points above Armor, so in actuality you weren’t that injured. Smash, on the other hand…

        1. That’s how it works indeed; you don’t get medbay time unless the damage you took exceeds your ‘armor health’, if you will. A soldier can get shot for four damage up to 18 times without requiring a tour of the medbay, if you heal him up after each shot and he gets 4 or more health bonus from armor.
          Not that you’d ever do that, naturally. That would just be cruel. It was only four shots. Because I was running low on Medkits.

  2. Oh no! It’s mostly words! Oh, wait, the words are positioned in a way that pleases me, so I guess it’s OK. Perhaps in the interests of balance we could get an episode later which consists of a whole bunch of screenshots and maybe fifty words? Could be interesting.

    I’m glad you thought to try that rocket shot – it’s cunning like that that will win this war, commander.

    1. I’m glad you think so. It will not be the only time I attempt this tactic, though it will not always end in the way I would hope.

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